For the first time in two years, people gathered outside the Multicultural Center Monday for the MLK Unity March on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Participants carried banners and posters while marching to Shafer Tower and back.
Braxton Williams, senior sociology major, said this was his first Unity March because of sub-zero temperatures in previous years.
“I think it’s nice to acknowledge our history and everything that people have done, and I think MLK, along with many other civil rights leaders and leaders in general, deserve a spotlight in history,” Williams said.
The march was preceded by Ball State’s annual MLK Community Breakfast, an event in which members of the Ball State and Muncie communities gather for a free breakfast and speak about equal rights in memory of the civil rights leader.
Stacey Edwards-Dunn, keynote speaker at the breakfast, said King’s words should be taken seriously now more than ever.
“We can’t just celebrate history, relegate Dr. King to a dream or hear a speech and go back to our classes, our desks, our homes and do business as usual,” Edwards-Dunn said. “Today in 2020, we must remember the real Dr. King — the one who chose not to be popular but prophetic.”
Her speech, which focused on several issues of equality in the country today, was received with multiple cheers and standing ovations from the audience.
Edwards-Dunn concluded her address, thanking other civil rights leaders like Sojourner Truth and Rosa Parks, who she said “took hits for us and tasted some strange fruit for us.”
“We can do it because one day … we will all together say, ‘Free at last … Thank God Almighty, we’re free at last,’” she said.
Mayor Dan Ridenour presented the proclamation during the breakfast, declaring the 37th Martin Luther King Jr. Day for the City of Muncie.
“[King] led a nonviolent movement that summoned all kinds of people – people of color, white, rich and poor to stimulate the moral consciousness of America,” Ridenour said.
Terry Bailey, 2019 Muncie mayoral candidate, said she remembers the first MLK Day observance Ball State had when she used to work as an assistant to the university’s president. She said they aimed to make it inclusive for both the university and the community.
“[This celebration] has grown, and grown and grown, and it’s so exciting to see how the community and the university have been working together to observe a great man,” Bailey said. “The unification of people is something [King] wanted to do,” Bailey said.
Other events at the breakfast included a presentation about the MLK Dream Team, the academic recognition of students from schools in Delaware County, a musical performance and other speeches.
Following the breakfast, some attendees like Judy Hessel, acquisitions supervisor at Ball State, walked with her daughters Emily and Lily in the Unity March.
“We think it’s important to learn the history, so not to repeat history, especially in the time period where there’s a lot of tension,” Hessel said. “We want to show more love, not hate.”
She said she wanted to share the memory and the importance of MLK Day with her children.
“I learned that he was trying to change the world,” Emily said when asked what she learned about King at the event.